NATO, EUNAVFOR operation frees pirated dhow

Rotterdam boardingAUGUST 14, 2012 — NATO reports that early yesterday morning a boarding team from HNLMS Rotterdam disrupted a suspected pirate group before it could launch an attack on a merchant ship. The decisive a was the result of a daylong operation of ships and patrol aircraft from NATO and EUNAVFOR.  

The search for the suspected pirates started five days ago, when port authorities in Bossaaso, northern Somalia,  reported the possible hijacking of a dhow. Two days later, the EU Naval Force unit Lafayette located the dhow. A visit showed that the suspected pirates had transferred to another vessel, the Bourhan Nour. That dhow was located another day later by another EU Naval Force unit, FGS Sachsen.  

It became clear the suspected pirates were bound for Somalia, apparently ready to give up their plans.

"To us it seemed highly unlikely that the pirates would want to return to Bossaaso," said Commodore Ben Bekkering, Commander of NATO's counter piracy mission, Operation Ocean Shield. "The authorities there make no secret of their intentions to eradicate piracy. However, to the east of Bossaaso two hijacked ships are still held by the pirates, who seem to be present in the nearby villages as well. We expected the pirates to go there, possibly asking help from their colleagues. We therefore decided to station Rotterdam off the coast, deploying her landing craft in a number of locations, effectively blocking any retreat from or support of the dhow. As expected, the dhow entered the trap. It was then up to Rotterdam."

"For the pirates it must have been a strange site," said Captain Huub Hulsker, Commanding Officer of HNLMS Rotterdam. "Not just Rotterdam and FGS Sachsen from the EU Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR) following closely, but also a helicopter and few landing craft ahead making the coast almost impossible to approach.

"There was not really anywhere for them to go. Obviously, the main thought is always for the safety of my crew and that of the crew of the dhow. But the situation was clear and some strict orders and two warning shots later, the suspected pirates surrendered. The boarding team was on board and in control of the vessel within the next 20 minutes. A grateful dhow crew, an impressive first action of my whole team early in my deployment and six suspected pirates detained on board, awaiting further decisions - this is a result that counts."

"It is clear that the pirates are experiencing increasing pressure," says Commodore Bekkering. "If they make it to the open sea, they find it increasingly difficult to stay undetected and find opportunities to attack merchant vessels. That can be credited to a broad international effort and the effective coordination between many participants. In this case, NATO and EU worked closely together. The fact that Rotterdam could execute the last step had everything to do with the team effort that preceded it."

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